If white Britons learned more from the Muslim community the UK would be a better country, according to Conservative MP Anna Soubry.
Speaking at an Eid-ul-Adha celebration event in Parliament, the former minister praised the success of Halimah Khaled - the first person of colour and first Muslim to be elected mayor in her Nottinghamshire constituency- and said lessons could be learned from her positive engagement with the largely white community.
″I can report happily that it is not a problem,” she told the event, organised by charity Human Appeal.
″She is British through and through and she happens to be a Muslim, and she is proud of her faith, and rightly so.
“And my goodness me, she and members of her community could teach many white British people many a good thing. And if my community, such as as it is, learned more from your community, this country would be a better country.”
Soubry, a staunch Remain supporter during the EU referendum campaign and now chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims, blamed “ignorance” for a rise in hate crime and pledged to examine the fact there is no legal definition of Islamophobia.
She said many white British people had lost their faith and that the importance of respecting other faiths and cultures must be instilled in young people.
Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer, who also attended the event, said a spike in anti-Muslim hate crime recorded in recent months was a “cause for concern”.
Starmer, who served as director of public prosecutions from 2008-2013 with responsibility for dealing with hate crime, added: “I was struck by how under-reported hate crime was by all communities. The cases that actually come to public attention are the tip of the iceberg. So many more go on, unreported and unackowledged.
“That is bad enough, but what is worse is that incidents have sadly gone up. There has been a sharp rise in anti-Muslim hate crime in the last few months. In my own diverse constituency, we have had attacks that I didn’t think would happen.”
Starmer claimed the Brexit vote had created divisions among communities which had to be fixed.
″Whatever you voted, one of the tragedies of Brexit is the way it has emphasised division and difference and different communities,” he said.
“I think that we all have a duty to work together to bring our communities back together, to bring our country back together, and deal with some of the hatred that has fallen out of that.”